Times are tough and a lot of companies are trying to cut back on costs. Less benefits, less hours, no healthcare, no bonuses, and more have become the norm, but that hasn’t stopped a large handful of companies from doing everything they can to provide corporate fitness benefits.
Ikea recently had 12,400 custom bicycles made as Christmas gifts for their U.S. employees. The bikes (which are silver with blue, yellow and white stripes- Ikea’s colors) served as a ‘thank you’ for a great year and also a reminder that an active lifestyle is key to a happy life. Employees were pleasantly surprised and it encouraged some who weren’t previously bicyclists to take up the healthy hobby. Ikea might be wow-ing us with their thoughtful and creative gifts, but they aren’t the only company to take ethical responsibility for the health crisis we are in.
According to USA Today, “Hospital giant HCA in April began offering diabetic workers in the corporate offices $400 a year toward medical costs if they go to 10 counseling sessions with diabetes educators.”
CBS News reports that President Obama openly praised companies such as Safeway, Microsoft and REI for outstanding practices in the areas of prevention and wellness for their employees. In reference to REI’s health care plan, President Obama said, “Every single employee is covered, but part of the reason they’re able to do it is because they put a big emphasis on prevention and wellness.”
Many state agencies, including the King County library system in Washington State, provide friendly fitness-related competitions among the employees. Depending on the employer and the competition, prizes or special lunches are awarded to teams and individuals that reach their goals. This provides a sense of fun and camaraderie which serves as an excellent motivator for employees.
Some other companies that have been spot-lighted for their innovation and dedication to employee health include:
- Google provides the Green Employee Programs which includes bikes scattered across campus for employee use during the day. This promotes a green and healthy lifestyle. Stress-busting massage therapy and yoga are also available on-site.
- Boeing offers gift cards to employees who receive annual exams.
- Starbucks offers health care to employees who work an average of 20 hours or more a week. They also have the Thrive program, which offers fitness tools such as smoking cessation programs and weight loss assistance.
- Johnson & Johnson employees are given pedometers as well as health and wellness counseling.
- Whole Foods provides up to 30 percent off health insurance for employees with healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI.
- Clif Bar & Company has an on-site fitness center and nutritional counseling.
Like everything, there’s a small gray area of concern for incentive programs and fitness rewards. The potential for discrimination is greater with gifts and incentives that depend upon the physical health of the employee. Requiring employees to reach a certain weight or cholesterol level could result in lawsuits. As long as the programs are structured carefully, however, they should provide nothing but a positive step towards a more active America.
If you were a business owner, how would you encourage fitness within your organization? Would you offer gym memberships, smoking cessation programs and prizes for friendly competitions?